Our inaugural annual report provides details about our activities and performance, including financial statements, since we were established on 8 March 2018 to 30 June 2018.
During the period we focused on establishing our main business processes and systems ahead of delivering loans from 1 July 2018.
Our purpose and functions as set out in our enabling legislation
Our main activities and progress in 2017-18
Our board, our workforce and our location
Our decision-making processes, internal controls and other key governance practices
Our financial activities and performance in 2017-18
Ref: RIC 069
The Hon. David Littleproud MP
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance and the Public Service
CANBERRA ACT 2600
I am pleased to present the 2017–18 Annual Report for the Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) in accordance with section 46 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 for presentation in Parliament.
This report covers the period since our establishment as a corporate Commonwealth entity under the Regional Investment Corporation Act 2018 on 8 March 2018 to 30 June 2018. Since the appointment of the RIC Board on 29 March, we have focused on establishing our fundamental business processes and systems in anticipation of commencing our full functions, delivering loans on 1 July 2018.
We did not publish a 2017–18 corporate plan for the period of March to June 2018 and did not have a separate entry in the Portfolio Budget Statements for 2017–18. Therefore, there were no performance measures to report against in this annual report. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources 2017–18 Annual Report covers work undertaken to support the establishment of the RIC before 1 July 2018.
We recently published our 2018–19 Corporate Plan and look forward to reporting against it next year. Our corporate plan also reports on the progress we have made on entity establishment.
The RIC Board approved this report in accordance with a resolution on 5 October 2018.
Chair of the Board
The Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) was established as a corporate Commonwealth entity on 8 March 2018 under the Regional Investment Corporation Act 2018 (the RIC Act).
Our main functions, commencing under the RIC Act on 1 July 2018, are:
- to administer farm business loans
- to administer, on behalf of the Commonwealth, grants of financial assistance to states and territories in relation to water infrastructure projects
- to administer programs prescribed by any rules that may be made under section 54 of the RIC Act.
We perform our functions in accordance with directions given by our responsible Ministers, the Hon. David Littleproud MP, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, and Senator the Hon. Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance and the Public Service.
These directions are set in the Regional Investment Corporation Operating Mandate 2018 (the Operating Mandate), which came into force on 16 June 2018. The Operating Mandate directs us in relation to our objectives, expectations about our strategies and policies, eligibility criteria for our loans, financial arrangements and other matters.
The Regional Investment Corporation (Water Infrastructure Project Agreements) Rule 2018 also came into force in this period, on 22 June 2018. The rule sets out the terms and conditions we may include in a water loan agreement.
The RIC Act establishes the RIC Board, consisting of the Chair and two to four other members. The Board’s main functions are to:
- decide on the strategies and policies to be followed, within the scope of the Operating Mandate provided by the responsible Ministers
- ensure the proper, efficient and effective performance of the RIC’s functions
- sign agreements, on behalf of the Commonwealth, with states or territories for grants of financial assistance for water infrastructure projects
- appoint the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
- perform any other functions conferred on it by the RIC Act or other legislation, which would include any additional functions needed to administer additional programs as directed by the responsible Ministers.
The RIC Board was appointed on 29 March 2018. Find more about our Board at section 3 ‘Our people’.
After being appointed in March 2018, the Board met six times before 30 June 2018 and were actively engaged in all aspects of setting up the new entity.
The initial focus was to establish the legal entity with fundamental business registrations, and to consider the necessary business processes and systems required. We sought to develop and implement our key accountability and reporting requirements under relevant legislation such as the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act), in anticipation of commencing our full functions on 1 July 2018. We made considerable progress in developing and establishing essential policies and procedures relating to our corporate obligations such as risk management, privacy, and human resource management. This work was supported by extensive preparatory work and briefing from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
Workforce planning, including the recruitment of a permanent CEO and employees, was at the forefront of Board deliberations. Our acting CEO, Mr Matt Ryan, was appointed on 25 May 2018. In late June, we began the search for our permanent CEO.
We also began planning for a national campaign to source suitably skilled employees. In the interim, we are supported by employees on secondment from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Murray–Darling Basin Authority. More detail about our seconded workforce is at section 3 ‘Our people’.
In May 2018, we announced that our headquarters would be in Orange, New South Wales. The Board decided on Orange as it is an established agribusiness hub. They considered factors such as transport and accessibility, availability of commercial real estate, telecommunications, available workforce, amenities and services. Proximity to related organisations such as government departments and financial service organisations was also a consideration.
We canvassed various commercial real estate options for our office in Orange and undertook site visits looking for suitable premises. We anticipate that our new headquarters will be open in time to coincide with the induction of our permanent employees later in 2018.
We began work on our foundational information and communications technology (ICT) service requirements, working with key vendors and procuring devices and software. Refer to section 4.6 for further information about our ICT services. We established bank accounts and put in place financial management and reporting systems.
Independent experts engaged to review our readiness found us to be well positioned to meet our legislative and other corporate obligations as a new corporate Commonwealth entity. This is an ongoing task and we are focused on implementing best practice.
Our focus in 2017–18 was on ensuring we were ready to open for business on 1 July 2018.
We developed guidelines for our Farm Investment loans, Drought loans and Water Infrastructure loans. The guidelines provide information about our products including eligibility requirements, potential loan uses, how to apply, and how we will assess applications.
We established our website in preparation for launch on 1 July 2018 to coincide with opening for business, and put in place our dedicated customer service hotline to field enquiries and provide ready access to consistent information about the RIC and our loan products.
We set a low variable interest rate for each of our loan products. We developed a range of internal policies and procedures to ensure loans are assessed and managed consistently, efficiently, fairly and correctly.
For farm business loans, we worked to engage an external service provider to help us assess and manage loans from 1 July 2018. We will continue to work with our service providers to ensure that loans are assessed appropriately.
We prepared for the transition of the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility from the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities (DIRDaC) to us. This includes the RIC taking over the administration of a loan that DIRDaC had negotiated before the RIC formally commenced. We also set up arrangements to reach out to state agencies to make sure they were aware of the RIC and the loan facility.
The Board is established under and governed by the RIC Act. The functions of the Board are described in section 1 ‘Legislative framework’. All of our Board members are non-executive members.
Throughout the 2017-18 financial year, the RIC Board was remunerated by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and not the RIC itself. The value of the Board’s remuneration in 2017-18 was $64,544 and was made in accordance with Remuneration Tribunal (Remuneration and Allowances for Holders of Part-time Public Office) Determination 2018.
Mr David Foster is an experienced chair and non-executive director with roles in a diverse range of industries, including financial services, retail, local government, education and professional services. Before his board roles, he had an extensive banking career spanning over 25 years. This includes five years as Chief Executive Officer of Suncorp Bank and over 14 years with Westpac in a number of senior roles in New South Wales and Queensland. He holds current directorships with MotorCycle Holdings Limited, Thorn Group Limited, Genworth Mortgage Insurance Limited, G8 Education Limited and Local Government Enterprises of Queensland. David attended all six board meetings to 30 June 2018.
Ms Lucia Cade has considerable experience in engineering and commercial leadership, with a focus on water infrastructure, utilities and professional services. She has been Chair of South East Water, a government-owned water utility, since October 2015, and holds other non-executive appointments in engineering, infrastructure and technology. Lucia has significant executive experience in water engineering, infrastructure and professional services, including appointments with Melbourne Water, City West Water, and AECOM. Since 2004 she has managed a portfolio of advisory and consulting clients, and recently was a member of the technical advisory panel for the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. Lucia attended five of the six board meetings to 30 June 2018.
Mr Mark Lewis is a former Western Australian Minister for Agriculture and Food and was a member for the Mining and Pastoral Region in the Western Australian Legislative Council from 2013 to 2017. During that time, his responsibilities included the Rural Business Development Corporation, which administers loans to primary industries, including concessional loans on behalf of the Commonwealth. He also has experience in water infrastructure planning and development through his role as Minister for Agriculture and Food. He has been involved in and owned cereals, sheep/cattle and horticulture farms, and is currently a corporate advisor with AFS Agriculture Limited, advising a number of agriculture-related joint ventures and private equity companies. Mark attended all six board meetings to 30 June 2018.
Ms Prue Bondfield has significant agribusiness and farming expertise from her role as General Manager and a director of Palgrove Management Pty Ltd, a corporate livestock business with properties in Queensland and New South Wales. Prue also has strong agriculture industry networks from various roles in state entities and on advisory committees. She was Chair of the Beef Industry Sustainability Framework Steering Committee, which was formed by the Red Meat Advisory Council. She was also a director of the State Management Council of Livestock Health and Pest Authorities of New South Wales, and a director of the Beef Improvement Association. Prue attended four of the six board meetings held to 30 June 2018. The first of the six meetings was held before her appointment to the board on 20 April 2018.
In 2017–18 the RIC was supported by a departmental taskforce focused on getting us ready for stand-up on 1 July 2018. Since 15 June 2018, we have been staffed by a combination of 23 departmental secondees and a number of contractors. Our interim team structure (streams of work) in 2017–18 is set out at Figure 1.
Our employment structure will change as we recruit our permanent workforce and turn the focus to ‘business as usual’ rather than establishment activities. We expect this will be an iterative process as we bring on board the team with the right capabilities and expertise in Orange.
During the reporting period, the RIC had no subsidiaries.
In May 2018, we announced that our headquarters would be in Orange, New South Wales. During the reporting period all our operations were based in Canberra through the interim employee arrangements. Seconded employees worked from the national office of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, located at 18 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra ACT 2601.
At its first meeting, the RIC Board agreed on its charter, which sets out its role, responsibilities, structure and processes.
In accordance with the RIC Act, the Board must meet at least four times per year. However, in 2017–18 it met more frequently (six times between appointment in March and 30 June 2018) in order to make key decisions and progress priority work in the entity establishment phase.
The RIC Board received extensive briefing by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to assist in early establishment. This included an introductory guide on legislative responsibilities relevant to the RIC, along with detailed information and advice on priority matters. All decisions were made by the Board. The department facilitated this work by providing staff and resources before the RIC received financial independence and interim staffing of its own.
Under the RIC Act, it is a designated function of the Board to sign contracts for water loans on behalf of the Commonwealth.
For more detail about the Board refer to section 1 ‘Legislative framework’ and section 3 ‘Our people’.
The CEO has responsibility for the day-to-day management of the RIC, including the power to approve and sign contracts for farm business loans under the RIC Act.
The Board may establish committees to advise on or assist in the performance of the Board’s or the RIC’s functions. Each committee would have a chair and a clearly defined charter setting out its structure, functions, duties and responsibilities. No Board committees were established in 2017–18.
Refer to section 4.2.5 for information about the establishment of our Audit Committee.
In 2017–18 the Board took steps to establish and maintain an appropriate system of internal control for the RIC. This included considering issues such as risk management, fraud control, financial management, assurance, and protective security.
Good risk management is fundamental to the RIC’s success, particularly given the complex lending and advisory nature of our business. In 2017–18 we began developing our Enterprise Risk Management Framework in accordance with the principles in the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy. Risk management has been, and will continue to be, factored into all of our governance, planning and performance management processes.
Our Fraud and Corruption Control Plan will provide a comprehensive framework for identifying, deterring, detecting, investigating and reporting fraud and corruption and meeting broader government obligations.
We have established, and continue to develop, financial control systems and a modern financial management information system to protect the integrity of information and provide our management team with relevant and up-to-date financial information.
We began work on our Protective Security Control Plan, which will provide the framework for identifying and mitigating security risks early to protect the RIC’s information, assets and people. It will be developed in accordance with guidance and standards contained in the Australian Government’s Protective Security Policy Framework.
The Board determined the structure and membership of the Audit Committee, which was appointed in early July 2018. The Audit Committee provides independent assurance and advice to the Board about our risk, performance, internal audit program, financial statements, and compliance framework.
The Australian National Audit Office audits our annual financial statements.
The RIC established insurance to cover employees and Board members, effective from 8 March 2018. This included directors’ and officers’ liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance. No premiums for these policies were paid during the 2017–18 financial year. There were no insurance claims made during the period.
The RIC established workers’ compensation insurance to cover the Acting CEO, for which we paid premiums totalling $85.80 during the 2017–18 financial year. There were no workers’ compensation insurance claims made during the period. We are currently developing a rehabilitation system and early intervention mechanisms to provide support and assistance to workers who may be injured or become ill due to work-related situations.
Work health and safety
The RIC is developing a health, safety and wellbeing management system. This will outline how we will discharge our legislative obligations and ensure safe outcomes for RIC workers and for others to whom we owe a duty of care under the work health and safety (WHS) legislation. The Board has been actively engaged on WHS and briefed on its due diligence obligations.
Departmental staff assisting the RIC and seconded to the RIC continued to operate under the safety management system of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources during 2017–18.
It is anticipated that all elements of the RIC’s health, safety and wellbeing management system will be developed and implemented in 2018–19 before permanent staff are employed.
In developing our human resources and WHS systems we will consider and include mechanisms designed to support equal opportunity and flexibility in the workplace. For example, we will implement a wide range of flexible work arrangements which will facilitate employment security for employees with carer responsibilities. Similarly, the RIC is developing policies to support the physical and psychological wellbeing of its employees, and will provide access to an employee assistance program for employees and their family members.
Our policies will incorporate relevant information and requirements relating to equal employment opportunity under the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987.
In starting work on our foundational ICT service requirements, we have chosen technology that minimises our environmental impact. We plan to use mobile devices where possible to support sustainable practices such as videoconferencing and ‘paper-lite’ processes and record keeping. This will enable us to establish our office with a smaller environmental footprint. This approach will be complemented by using cloud-based services, which require less on-site infrastructure. We will continue to look for opportunities to support sustainability and energy efficiency while establishing our head office.
From 1 July 2018, we deliver programs that support technologically and ecologically sustainable development. Our farm loans can be used by farm businesses to implement modernised and increasingly efficient technologies, infrastructure, farm production systems, and sustainable resource management techniques. For example, our loans can help farmers prepare for drought by employing proactive water management measures and water-efficient cropping techniques.
Our water infrastructure loans will fund projects that produce public benefits to the broader economy, community and environment. As part of our assessment, we will require that relevant environmental approvals have, or will be obtained. We will also take environmental impact assessments into account when considering the viability of the project over its operational life. We will deliver our water loans consistent with the Water Act 2007, the Murray–Darling Basin Plan and broader national water policy, which contribute directly to ecologically sustainable development.
Judicial decisions and parliamentary committees
The RIC is not aware of any judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals that had a significant effect on our operations in 2017–18. There were also no reports made about the RIC by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Office of the Information Commissioner or the Auditor-General. As far as we are aware, the only parliamentary committee report which substantially involved the RIC during 2017–18 was the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee’s inquiry into the Regional Investment Corporation Bill 2017 (Provisions) in August 2017, before the RIC was established.
Index of requirements
|Section||Description||Location within report|
|Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013|
|46||The RIC must prepare and give an annual report to RIC’s responsible Ministers, for presentation to the Parliament, on the RIC’s activities during the period.||Annual Report
Financial statements and notes to the financial statements.
|Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014|
|17BB||The RIC Board must approve and sign the annual report.
Details of how and when the approval of the annual report was given.
A statement that the RIC Board is responsible for preparing and giving the annual report to the RIC’s responsible Ministers in accordance with section 46 of the PGPA Act.
|17BE(a)||Details of the RIC’s enabling legislation.||Legislative framework|
|17BE(b)||A summary of the objects and functions of the RIC as set out in the legislation.
The purposes of the entity as included in the entity’s corporate plan for the period.
N/A – the RIC did not publish a 2017–18 corporate plan.
|17BE(c)||Names and titles of the RIC’s responsible Ministers.||Legislative framework|
|17BE(d)||Details of any directions given by the responsible Ministers.||Legislative framework|
|17BE(e)||Details of any applicable government policy orders.||N/A – There were no applicable government policy orders.|
|17BE(f)||Details of non-compliance with any directions or policy orders which apply to the RIC.||N/A – The RIC had no instances of non-compliance.|
|17BE(g)||Annual Performance Statements.||N/A – The RIC did not publish a corporate plan for the period of March to end June 2018, and no separate entry in the Portfolio Budget Statements for 2017–18. Therefore, there were no performance measures to report against in this annual report. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources 2017–18 annual report covers work undertaken to support the establishment of the RIC before 1 July 2018.|
|17BE(h)||Details of any significant issues reported to the responsible Ministers that relate to non-compliance with finance law.||N/A – The RIC did not have any instances of non-compliance with the finance law.|
|17BE(i)||Details of actions taken to remedy any non-compliance with finance law.||N/A – The RIC did not have any instances of non-compliance with the finance law.|
|17BE(j)||Details about the RIC Board, as the accountable authority.||Our people|
|17BE(k)||Details about the RIC organisational structure.||Our people|
|17BE(l)||Outline the location of the RIC’s major activities or facilities.||2017-18 activities
|17BE(m)||Detail the main corporate governance practices of the RIC during the period.||Corporate governance|
|17BE(n)||Details of the decision-making process undertaken by the accountable authority for making a decision in relation to a payment to a related entity.||N/A – The RIC did not make any payments to related entities.|
|17BE(o)||Value of transactions of payments to related entities.||N/A – The RIC did not make any payments to related entities.|
|17BE(p)||Details of significant activities and changes that affected the operations or structure of the entity during the period.||Legislative framework|
|17BE(q)–(r)||Details of any external scrutiny including judicial and administrative decisions, reviews or reports.||Corporate governance|
|17BE(s)||Details of information that was unable to be obtained from a subsidiary for the annual report.||N/A – The RIC does not have any subsidiaries.|
|17BE(t)||Details of any indemnity that applied during the period to the accountable authority, including insurance premiums.||Corporate governance|
|17BE(u)||An index of the RIC’s statutory reporting requirements.||Index of requirements|
|Work Health and Safety Act 2011|
|Schedule 2, Part 4, clause 4(2)||Work health and safety initiatives, outcomes, statistics and investigations.||Corporate governance|
|Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918|
|Section 311A||Details of advertising and marketing payments during the period.||N/A – The RIC did not make any advertising or marketing payments during the period. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources 2017–18 Annual Report covers work undertaken to support the establishment of the RIC before 1 July 2018.|
|Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999|
|516A||Details about the RIC’s ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance.||Corporate governance|
|Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987|
|9(4)||Report on the development and implementation of an equal opportunity program.||Corporate governance|